A Tale of Two Ditches
Not too long ago a friend shared with me his struggle to faithfully teach “grace” to the folks he disciples. I certainly share that struggle. Faithful discipleship is a narrow path between the two ditches of legalism and licentiousness.
I didn’t come up with that distinction. The Apostle Paul dealt with the same issues. On the one hand he had to warn the Galatian Christians about the ditch of legalism espoused by the Judaizers. These were folks who claimed Jesus was great, but you still had to obey the Law of Moses to be saved. On the other hand, he had to give an emphatic “NO” to those in the other ditch whose philosophy was, “Let’s sin up a storm so we can experience more of God’s grace.” In their view, Christians don’t have to worry about obeying God, because they’re under God’s grace.
The path between the two ditches is hard and narrow indeed and Christian history is littered with examples of how individuals, (as well as groups of people), have fallen into one ditch or the other. Regardless of which ditch you fall into, you still end up dirty and smelly.
To my struggling friend, and as a reminder to myself, I offer some counsel I once heard. Take comfort in the struggle of the narrow path because the Apostle Paul experienced the same. Grace is a dangerous thing. If we faithfully and accurately teach the biblical doctrine of grace, there will always be the risk someone might distort it in a libertine direction, just as a faithful and accurate teaching of obedience might lead some into the legalistic ditch. We are called to be faithful in our message of grace, even though we can’t control what people will do with it.
Those who take the ministry of discipleship seriously will always struggle with this. However, we can use this struggle between the two ditches, the journey of the narrow path, to motivate us to be careful, loving, grace-filled, and faithful in our teaching, discipling, counseling, correcting, etc.
Remembering My Own Struggle
I know that walking the narrow path is hard for me, and I’ve been at it for some time now. I can still remember the early days of my walk with Christ. I often caught myself walking a little too closely to one side of the path or the other. Sadly, I sometimes found myself having to climb out of one ditch or the other. But in God’s goodness, he cleaned me up, disciplined me, and sent me along my way.
This reminder of my own history will hopefully encourage me (and you) to be patient with those whom we disciple, especially those who are just beginning their own way down the narrow path. Thank God for his ever-present grace!
Lord of the one true path, we enter life with you through a narrow gate and walk along a hard path. It’s not easy or comfortable, but you tell us that up front. You command us to count the cost before we pick up our crosses and follow you. You grace is a gift we do not deserve, but can and will change our lives when we receive it and live into it. And yet, O Lord how often do we take it for granted by assuming it allows us to live any way we want? Or, on the other hand, how often do we not trust your grace and seek to justify ourselves before you with our own attempts at righteousness? Please forgive us, O God of grace and mercy. Enable us to take you at your word and live according to your grace. It will require your precious Spirit to help us faithfully navigate it, but it leads to life. In the name of the One who has already walked the path and now waits to embrace us at the end. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petitions – prayers for yourself
· Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
· Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
· Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My family
· My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
· For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
· For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
· Other needs
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